SIGUR RÓS play Echo Beach at the Molson Amphitheatre August 1. See listing. Rating: NNN
After a foray into frisky pop on 2008's Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, on their sixth album Icelandic quartet Sigur Rós return to the less easily defined cinematic atmospherics for which they are best known.
At first, Valtari's blissful opening sounds like a retreat to the familiar, but gradually it morphs into an exercise in extreme minimalism that emphasizes mood over melody, subtle textures, creeping vocals, delicately meandering piano and a general resistance to the big, emotional moments that have become the band's trademark. They do, however, muster a sweeping gesture or two, like when Varúð's childlike choral progression crescendos into waves of percussive power, the album's most epic moment.
Impeccably produced, Valtari ultimately feels like two diametrically opposed albums: one indulges in (and deconstructs) Sigur Rós's usual methods of bringing listeners to heavenly climax, and the other in glistening, dissonant instrumentals (Varðeldur, Valtari, Fjögur Píanó) emotionally vast in their sparseness. So, yeah, it's a bit of a head trip.
Top track: Ekki Múkk